Contrary to the beliefs of professionals prior to the 1970s and to the impression still promoted by the popular media, there is no evidence, even after decades of research, that family or parenting problems cause schizophrenia.
As early as 1948, psychoanalysts proposed that mothers fostered schizophrenia in their offspring through cold and distant parenting. Others blamed parental schisms, and confusing patterns of communication within the family. The double-bind theory, put forward by anthropologist Gregory Bateson, argued that schizophrenia is promoted by contradictory parental messages from which the child is unable to escape. While enjoying broad public recognition, such theories have seldom been adequately tested, and none of the research satisfactorily resolves the question of whether differences found in the families of people with schizophrenia are the cause or the effect of psychological abnormalities in the disturbed family member.
Millions of family members of people with schizophrenia have suffered needless shame, guilt and stigma because of this widespread misconception.